Starting Five: Takeaways from an exciting 2024 WNBA Draft in Brooklyn

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

While the WNBA Draft is always a marquee event on the league’s calendar, there was something entirely different about the 2024 rendition. 

It could have been the fact that it was at a different venue in the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It could have been the fact that it was the first draft held in front of fans since the 2016 draft that took place at the Connecticut Sun’s Mohegan Sun Arena. 

It could have been that there was enough star power in this draft for several drafts. 

All in all, it was a banner evening for the W and its incoming rookie class that had no problems basking in the bright lights of New York City. Without further adieu, here are five takeaways from what was an exciting evening where 36 more young women fulfilled lifelong dreams.

Of course, the Indiana Fever were winners because of the first pick alone. The obvious selection at the top of the draft board was Caitlin Clark. 

How amped was Indiana for this pick? The Fever staged a draft party at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Over 17,000 packed the Fever’s home venue for the big evening. When commissioner Cathy Engelbert made the pick official, those Fever fans erupted in celebration. 

The No. 22 jersey on Fanatics had no problems selling out. This is without question the most excited the Fever fanbase has been since the Tamika Catchings days. 

While the Fever still have an uphill battle on their hands in terms of becoming contenders, they have a young core in Clark and Aliyah Boston that is sure to give the rest of the WNBA fits for the next 15 or so years.

Despite basketball becoming more of a guard-oriented sport, many of the early selections in this year’s WNBA Draft were frontcourt players.

Among those frontcourt players were a pair of high-profile stars from the SEC. 

If the hearts of South Carolina FAMs were already in knots with having to call a truce in Indiana with Clark teaming up with Boston, another one of their favorites would be heading to Chicago as the Sky selected Kamilla Cardoso with the third overall pick.

Then came the seventh overall selection which saw coach Teresa Weatherspoon and general manager Jeff Pagliocca bring Angel Reese to the Windy City. 

We forget that despite all of the turmoil the Sky went through last season that they still did qualify for the playoffs. If anything is a given it is that Chicago will have no problems giving the rest of the WNBA problems with its frontcourt. 

Typically, teams that are two-time defending champions are not too worried about drafts. 

The Las Vegas Aces, new black and silver colors and all, are the exception. While the Aces have indeed won the last two championships with its core of A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum, there are questions regarding its bench. 

Las Vegas addressed those issues with the drafting of Dyaisha Fair out of Syracuse in the second round. Also – Kate Martin goes from being the teammate of one high-profile No. 22 to another high-profile No. 22. Plus they added Virginia Tech’s Liz Kitley and Jackson State’s Angel Jackson. 

For those who watched on ESPN or for those who had the opportunity to experience the draft first hand at BAM, one question had to come to mind…

What was the WNBA doing the last few years where the draft was held in venues sans fans? 

Obviously the 2020 and 2021 renditions were exceptions due to the pandemic. But the 2024 draft felt more like … a draft. It had the feeling of a WNBA that was capitalizing on the wave of momentum that is sweeping women’s basketball. 

As more and more talent continues to rise through the ranks, the W needs to keep the same energy that was present in Brooklyn on Monday night. 

Now…for the cold and hard reality. 

As glitzy and glamorous as the WNBA Draft is, there is absolutely nothing that is glitzy and glamorous about the rigors of training camp. 

The reality is that many of those whose names were either called by commissioner Cathy Engelbert or announced on ESPN by Ryan Ruocco probably will be part of roster cuts as the season lurks. 

The commissioner knows that in every press conference she gives that expansion will be a topic. Engelbert did say that she hopes to see a 16-team WNBA by 2028. The number of talented players that may not make rosters leading up to the season is all the more reason to continue fanning the expansion flames. 

We do have one new team starting next year – the Golden State team and Engelbert did say that she wants the W to be at 14 teams by 2026. In addition, we will have an expansion draft for the new Bay Area franchise in December. 

While things appear to finally be moving in the right direction on the expansion front, there is still plenty of talent that will be without a team once the season tips off in May and will be relegated to the dreaded “hardship” contract. 

While playing in college and playing in the professional ranks are two entirely different circumstances, there has never been a better time for the W to go all-in on expansion. It serves no favors to the WNBA to capitalize off the momentum of the college game only for those same stars who drove the momentum in the college game to be off of pro rosters. 

The WNBA needs to strike while the iron is hot – and that iron has, arguably, never been hotter. 

(all photos credit to Lamar Carter)